In my mind, I'm still that young girl in college. Carefree. Years and years before I have to worry about my parents' health. I've forced them to get a notiarized piece of paper giving me power of attorney and named the custodian of my sister, in case. I've always known this will fall on my shoulders, and I'm fine with it. It's my family. But I have years and years before I have to worry about it.
So Friday my step-mom had a shadow. I almost threw up when they said those words to me. (Oh my god, Joyce is my dream mom. A shadow.) In her lung. Growing. With friends. Surgery scheduled within 24 hours. Mobilization. Scary words like "Stage 2, possibly 3." For the past few days I've been on the phone with insurance companies, cancer centers (MD Anderson is the place to be, no matter where in the country you are) and now I can toss around words like sarcoma and squamous and not be working on a Bio paper.
And while my mom (let's face it. I accepted the shit of a human my biological mother is and clung to the woman who taught me how to be a wife, a creator of things, how to be patient and thoughtful - she's my mom) is in the hospital undergoing test, and on and on... There's the little matter of my sister. Unable to talk to us, unable to understand why her world isn't there. You don't touch her. You don't hug her. She screams and paces. She wants her mom. She'll let me talk to her, get her things, but she paces, paces, rocks, tugs her ears, repetitively looks out the window and taps on the glass.
And my brother. Knows there are words like "cancer" "sick" "hospital" but they have no concrete meaning. So he's picking up on our stress, our worry and it's making him crazy, because he doesn't understand. He just wants his mom, the one person on this earth who looks at him like there isn't a thing in the world wrong, his One True Champion, the one who gets his strange jokes, who sees the talent hidden in his odd doodles... And she isn't there. And we've been talking in hushed tones. It's hard for me to be close to him. 16 years between our ages - I was gone for most of his life in college, marriage... The one thing we have together in common is Buffy. I thought he could identify with Willow and Xander. I was right. He'd tell you he was most like Wesley, but that's because he hasn't watched Angel yet.
And I'm prepared to watch The Body with him. If, you know... I need something to help explain.
And I've been on the phone with my sisters. I love them, but god damn. (This is locked from them.) They do not like my step-mom. Still harboring old anger (instilled by my mother and being "replaced" by a lesser woman, in her eyes) and calling my dad and s-mom hypochondriacs, I bet this is just for attention, it's nothing, you watch. And... I just start putting the phone down and walk away.
This morning was the surgery. Right lung to be taken out. Gonna see how bad it is once we "crack her open." Surgeons aren't known for their bedside manner. My dad, who I learned how to be a dork from, is alternating between extreme bouts of anger, and cracking stupid jokes and then making with the lightness. Defense mechanisms, I know. And I try to tell him it's okay to stay angry. That he can bitch to me about stupid insurance, and her stupid parents that smoked in the house and gave her cancer. (Her mother died of lung cancer. Stop smoking, for the love of Stoney.) But he smiles and says it's fine, it's fine, and I can see him chewing the inside of his mouth into pulp.
Got the news from the doctor that they got all of the tumors, and the best part is they are benign, so no chance of them breaking off and having an evil party in her brain, or something. Apparently there was a lot of necrotic tissue (dead) in her lungs, so they had to remove that. So basically, her lung looks like swiss cheese. Bodies are weird. I kinda want to see it. Like it will make it real if I look at the pink lung, see the shiny metal pan with the flicked dead gunk they cut out, see the monitors and their beeping/swooshing. Waiting rooms suck. Phony pictures, fake furniture, wonky plants, non-soothing pastels that make me think of the elderly and death, or worse yet, primary colors that make me think of pediatrician offices and snotty nosed kids. So basically, nothing to make me think of health or vibrance. So you let your mond wander, because you can't get it to focus on anything except the weirdness of the decor, then you feel guilty for redecorating in your mind and not focusing on What. Is. Important. OMG.
So. She'll come home on Friday. She'll need to recoup for a few weeks, as her lungs will be filled with fluid, body weakened from anesthesia, and a bunch of her lungs are festering in a medical waste bin. But. My aunt MaryAnn comes Thursday. She of the 35 years ER nursing experience. She of the level head, the wry humor, and the sleeve rolling. She of the delicious baking. And my dad laughed today. Haven't heard that in what seems like forever. And that makes it okay, yeah? If my dad can have a real laugh, and not his "my client made a lame joke, ha ha ha" laugh, then she'll be fine? The kids are worried, but giddy because Mom is coming home. And MaryAnn is the best, so they are happy she'll be there. She's a hugger and cookie pusher, so what's not to love?
And somehow, during all of this, I friggin' feel like an honest-to-god adult. And I don't like it. And I can't stress it enough: STOP FUCKING SMOKING. I love you. You know who you are. And lung cancer hurts. And can spread to your brain or lymph, and you are FUCKED. But most importantly? IT'S PREVENTABLE. [/soap box]
I yell because I love. And am giddy. And really, really tired. But mostly relieved. And I really, really love Kate.
[ETA for Clarity] For the record: my step-mom is not a smoker. Never was. But she grew up in a house of smokers. 30% of people who develop lung cancer are people who never smoked. But lived with people who did. Have I mentioned that I love you guys? And that cancer sucks? And I don't want anyone to die? Like, ever? Except for mean, bitchy people. They can die. But in their sleep or something. Lung cancer sucks. [/PSA]
I cannot wait until StoneyWars. I need to cut loose and hug you guys HARD.